THERE are positive signs for cattle sellers in 2019, with opening sales across the state up on December auctions.
The one exception to the upward trend is lighter heifers, which are still struggling to attract bidding attention.
At Naracoorte on Thursday last week, steers were more than 10 cents a kilogram up on the December sale.
Steer returns were similar to the opening Naracoorte sale of 2018, making to $1357 and averaging $1107.
Landmark Naracoorte senior account manager Brendan Fitzgerald said the sale was a good 20c/kg higher than December in places.
“There were only a few lines of steers that made less than $3/kg,” he said.
“The sale was strong right from go to finish.”
Good falls in the South East in December – with Naracoorte recording 50 millimetres for the month and Lucindale 82mm – led to hotter local bidding.
“After the rains, it’s given people a bit more confidence to jump in, and you could see that in the sale, with extra local farmers looking for backgrounding steers,” Mr Fitzgerald said.
“The 50mm to 60mm that came through spurred on phalaris and lucerne growth, and even clover on a lot of the flats, so it did a lot of good.”
But it was not just local support that helped push the Naracoorte sale along, with an excellent spread of buyers bidding up. Gippsland, Vic, buyers SEJ Livestock purchased almost 200 head, Teys bought 129 for its Jindalee, NSW, feedlot, Ravensworth Agriculture Company, NSW, took 267 and Landmark International bought 128 for a live export order.
The major bidder was interstate feedlotter Garrison with more than 500 head, while Princess Royal and Thomas Foods International both took about 100 cattle.
Mr Fitzgerald believes this selling season could be a reversal of the previous year.
“Last year, the earlier sales were the dearer ones, but I think it might get dearer as we go on this time,” he said.
“There’s a lot of confidence in the cattle job at the moment. A lot of people are thinking that if it rains in the next month or two, we’ll see a rise in the job this year.
“Cattle numbers are still down. Kill cattle are likely to become harder to find and people are thinking ‘If I want to get them, I need to get them now’.”
Elders Naracoorte branch manager Tom Dennis said the quality and weight of the cattle offered at the opening weaner sale of the year helped push the strong results along.
“There was some outstanding weight for age in the cattle,” he said.
“Some calves were a good 20 kilograms to 30kg heavier than what was offered last year.”
Mr Dennis said the same strong feedlotting and processor support displayed at the December sale was evident again last week.
“Everyone at the previous sale was there again but there was a bit more backgrounding interest this time,” he said.
Meanwhile, at the Strathalbyn saleyard, its opening sale of the year also got off to a strong start, with a full yarding of 1100 attracting buyers from the South East, Adelaide Hills and Fleurieu Peninsula.
Steer prices were up by about 10c/kg on December. The top price for steers on a kilogram basis was $3.26/kg, while heifers topped at $2.73/kg. But, lighter heifers were a challenge, going as low as $1.56/kg.
While prices did not hit the same highs as last year at the annual Mount Compass breeders sale on Friday, they were still solid considering the dry conditions being experienced on the Fleurieu Peninsula.
Pregnancy-tested in-calf heifers made to $1780, while their unjoined counterparts topped at $1050.
Cows with calves at-foot made to $1900.